Is there a magic formula for maximizing the amount of financial aid you qualify for?

Many parents are concerned about the cost of their children’s higher education. Especially when both parents work and earn a good income, they often find that they are in an “in-between” area: their income is too high to qualify for assistance, but they aren’t well-off enough to afford a good higher education. Many parents question why colleges can’t do more for the people caught in-between so that they, too, can afford to send their children to college. And if you’re in this situation, you are probably wondering if you can qualify for student aid despite your parents’ income.

The good news is that colleges can and do help, and you can get financial aid. There are many student aid programs that you may qualify for, and they’re not secret or exclusive. The following serves as a guide to dispel the mystery surrounding these programs.

Few families have the resources to easily pay the full cost of tuition, fees, dormitory, textbooks and spending money. If you and your parents would struggle to come up with the necessary funds, then immediately apply for financial aid. Investigate all scholarships and apply for every one for which you are potentially eligible.

There is a lot of need-based aid, but there is also a great deal of merit aid out there that is not dependent upon your family income. Always apply for aid if you need help paying for your college expenses. You never know if you will get financial aid, or how much you might qualify for if you are eligible. Fill out all of the required financial aid forms.

Definitely start with the FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid. (Explain FAFSA) Then complete the application forms for institutional funds from private colleges and universities. That usually means completing the CSS Profile and the forms required by each individual college you apply to. Don’t assume you won’t get financial aid.

Your next step is to apply for institutional funds from private colleges or universities. You do this normally by completing the CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Financial Aid) forms as required by each college’s program. Again, don’t deny the application yourself! You have very little to lose – except for the application fee for the CSS Profile – and a lot to gain.

Even if you think you won’t qualify for much, you should fill out every application you can. You might be surprised at how much you do qualify for. The cost of higher education has risen so much that many people who wouldn’t have qualified before are now eligible for financial assistance. That includes two-income families. The economy has caused more families to struggle to pay for their children’s education. Therefore schools, in particular some of the best colleges and universities, are giving out more financial assistance than ever. Colleges and universities are trying to hold down their costs so that they don’t price people out of the higher education market with tuition and fee increases.

There are a number of factors that determine eligibility for financial aid, including: * Number of children in college * Number of dependents * Extenuating circumstances * Equity in the parents’ home * Other assets * Savings and investments

Look for colleges and universities that do not overly burden you with student loans: they are more likely to approve grant aid for a higher percentage of your expenses. Private universities and colleges will often cover more of your costs than cash-strapped, state-run schools. If you are industrious and leave no financial aid stone unturned, you will find there is a lot of help available for the student willing to deal with the paperwork.

Princeton University was the first university to establish such a policy, and most of the Ivy league institutions and Ivy-caliber institutions have followed their lead. Of course, these institutions are extremely difficult to get accepted into, but excellent grades and SAT scores and the right college-admissions strategy spearheaded by the right college admissions consultant can get you there.

If you are a high school student reading this then you are preparing for your admission to the college of your choice right now. The effort you put into your high school academic performance, your community activities and your personal development will help you get into the college or university of your dreams. If you make yourself into an outstanding candidate, colleges and universities will go out of their way to help you afford their cost. They know the best students will ultimately help make them the best college or university. Have the wisdom to apply yourself now and excel, and your reward could be a full scholarship from an excellent institution.

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